I want to tell you about my Grandmother. She was a firebrand of the highest order.
One day, one of my best friends (now passed from this mortal sphere) made some outrageous claim or observation at the dinner table. Gram rounded on him sharply and said, “Donald, I have been everywhere and done everything, and you can’t tell me a damned thing!”
Gram was just plain wonderful; everything about her was distinctive. Her automobile (it could hardly be called just a ‘car’) was a yellow 1955 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe.
One day when I was about fifteen I was in Washington DC and visiting the office of then Colorado Senator Peter Dominik. Upon being introduced to the Chief of Staff, I said, “I think you may know my Grandmother.”
He said (unimpressed), “Oh, what’s her name?”
I responded, “Mary C. Johnston.”
His tone changed instantly. “Mr. Johnston [first time anybody ever called me ‘Mister’], not only do we know her name, we know her handwriting!”
Gram was a prolific letter writer. She wrote to Khrushchev, Castro, all the Presidents from FDR on, Eleanor Roosevelt and many, many more. Mary C. Johnston Sr. was an intellectual force with which to be reckoned. It was she who first suggested to me the wisdom of adding a Secretary of Peace to the United States Cabinet.
Mary C. Johnston Sr. was followed by my mother, Mary C. Johnston, Jr. In her time, she was the seventh highest woman in the United States Department of State. If my reckoning is correct, she had not yet turned thirty. One of my daughters is also a Mary C. Johnston.
She comes of a noble lineage — women who were liberated well before it was popular to do so. There is more to this story … but we’ll save that for another time.